Four DesignJet ePrinters from HP helped accelerate the workflow in a unique distributed design process involving the Fab City Car project.

An open source concept vehicle, the ‘Fab City Car’ allows people to modify, customise, and adapt the vehicle to their specific needs at any given time anywhere in the world. Fab Lab Barcelona and the HP DesignJet team decided to join forces with three other Fab Labs - Garage Fab Lab, (Sao Paulo, Brazil), FabCafe Tokyo, and Fab Lab Manchester - to develop the proposal.

Luciano Betoldi, manager at Fab Lab Barcelona explains that the ‘Fab City Car’ is a car that can be personalised to fit the user’s specific needs of transportation. All the designs are open source, allowing anyone to download them, adapt the design to their particular need, and produce it in a Fab Lab closest to their location.

There are more than 350 Fab Lab ‘containers’ for machines and workspaces for people and projects worldwide. They are mainly free and open to the public, cooperate with many other Fab Labs, and take part in network initiatives.

Over three months, each lab worked remotely on different components of the car. HP donated four large-format HP DesignJet T520 ePrinters to fully equip the labs in the distributed design process. The HP DesignJet T520 ePrinters’ ability to wirelessly print large-format plans and drawings anywhere and everywhere, be it across the building, from floor to floor, or on another continent in a multiplatform, open source environment, transformed the creative workflow in the Fab Lab car project.

According to Tomas Diez, director at Fab Lab Barcelona, it took them just 12 weeks to complete the project and one week to manufacture the concept car. Using their HP DesignJet T520 ePrinter in Barcelona, and the ePrinters in the FabCafe in Tokyo, Sao Paulo and Manchester, they were able to collaborate more closely by printing large-format plans and concepts directly over the internet. This allowed them to instantly share plans for their respective areas of expertise with absolute clarity, avoiding time-wasting misunderstandings. Development distributed between locations allowed Fab Lab to increase productivity as the project progressed around the clock by exploiting different time zones.

Betoldi notes that distributed design offers the unique opportunity to draw on complementary skills that may not be present in one lab but readily available in another. The project was complex and the teams in each location designed specific parts according to the local skill sets available. Collaboration and broader access to tools and the ability to share a print over the internet increased the creative pool.

Diez notes that the reliable connectivity of the HP DesignJet ePrinter makes it the perfect tool for distributed workflows and Fab Lab’s distributed design and build philosophy. All the Fab Labs could print the plans created at another Fab Lab on their HP DesignJet ePrinters without being concerned about platforms or software applications. As the manufacturing Fab Lab, the Barcelona office was able to print plans to life-size scale and use them as blueprints for positioning the manufactured parts for assembly.

He said they were surprised by the fantastic results and the perfect resolution. The internet-connected HP DesignJet T520 ePrinter offers wireless printing of large-format plans and drawings, with the results printed on 36-inch HP Coated paper.

Diez observes that the HP DesignJet ePrinters are helping them turn people’s ideas into real solutions. He says sharing the printed plan is a key milestone in a project with everybody able to see, touch and feel the idea that has come to life.

He adds that a connected HP DesignJet ePrinter anywhere in the world allows people to accurately print the large-format drawings they need without any expert knowledge of files, formats, printing or networks, or even software applications. He concludes the DesignJet ePrinter represents the ‘democratisation’ of technology that is accelerating innovation.